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I've heard both of these claims, and they seem to have irreconcilable differences:

  • God does his part (the call/invitation), now you do yours (respond in faith)
  • God not only gave his son for you, but he will give you the faith to believe it.

I'm less interested here in the broader question of the doctrine of election; I'm focusing specifically on this: is there scriptural evidence that faith is a gift or something that we receive from God?

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4 Answers

I find Jesus' parable on the mustard seed the most helpful.

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32)

What I get out of it is this: With one's faith, as with the mustard seed, it takes something from both sides (you and God) for it to grow. There is no clear line of demarcation between your effort and that of God's.

In fact, I find this principle of "no clear demarcation" to be a useful one in understanding the Bible. For example, it also seems to resolve the contradiction between God's will and your own petitionary prayer. In reality, the two need not be mutually exclusive (just like the electron having properties of a particle and a wave, in physics).

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This is no airtight prooftext, but it does hint at the idea that faith is given by God, and not spontaneously generated in the would-be believer.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29 ESV)

In this verse, Paul is speaking of suffering for the sake of Christ. But the "not only" seems to imply that the readers must already recognize that their belief is something that is granted by God. He expands this concept with which they are already familiar to say that just as they know that their faith is given to them by God, he is now telling them that their suffering is ordained by Him as well.

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Very good verse! I must agree. I'm certainly going to be looking at the ECF's and seeing what they said about that verse. Also noteworthy, Paul uses the verb ἐχαρίσθη. That doesn't simply mean "to give." It means to give graciously, i.e. via grace. The root verb is χαρίζομαι, and χαρίζομαι is related to the noun χάρις, of course, meaning "grace." –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Mar 10 '13 at 8:30
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My position is that faith comes from God. Justification, the act whereby God pardons our sins and gives us the righteousness of Christ, is by grace through faith. There are a number of passages that illustrate this doctrine (ESV):

Jonah 2:9:

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 John 4:19:

We love because he first loved us.

Now this faith give to us by God is a living and active faith. It is no dead faith, but produces good works (obedience to the law). As James tells us, if the faith we have does not produce works, it is a dead faith.

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Adrian, +1 and thanks for the response--I'm most interested in the Ephesians passage. I assume your position is that the "it" refers to faith, right? I can see this also explained as though "it" refers to salvation, i.e., "...salvation is the gift of God, not a result of works..." Would you consider expanding on that? –  Ray Jul 31 '12 at 1:25
    
Also, I hope you don't mind my edits... I'm just a little OCD with separating out the quotations--it just makes it easier for me to read. Feel free to reverse my edit if you disagree. –  Ray Jul 31 '12 at 1:29
    
@Ray: Sure. The "it" likely refers to salvation; it doesn't matter from my perspective. The ordo salutis is election, calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification. The term "salvation", in my experience, can refer either to justification, glorification, or the entire ordo. If there is full justification, which is always by grace through faith, then glorification will inevitably follow (John 10:28-9). Glorification occurs if and only if justification occurs, which comes only through faith. Does that answer your question? –  Adrian Keister Jul 31 '12 at 1:51
    
Yes and no. Actually, the thing I liked about your answer is that it's the only one citing scriptural evidence rather than just theological positions. But it sounds from your comment that you need the synthetics to inform your position. –  Ray Jul 31 '12 at 2:30
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Do you mean "systematics" when you say "synthetics"? If so, I would comment that all people use systematics when they approach Scripture. The only question is, which systematics will you use? Proper exegesis is the lifeblood of good systematics. –  Adrian Keister Jul 31 '12 at 2:40
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This is a tough topic, because it really brings strong opinions. Typically, this amounts to a lot of heat and not a lot of light.

There are three common views of Justification and faith's role in it. As such, the source of said faith varies as well.

  1. Justification by infused righteousness, such as is found in Roman Catholicism, says that an individual's will was weakened to the point of such frailty that they cannot shake the penalty and grip of sin. This is called original sin. A person (or that person's parents, deciding in their place) can choose to become regenerated by being Baptized. In this act, God has graciously infused righteousness within the individual and the nature of this righteousness is such that if God were not to honor this righteousness as worthy of saving the individual, then God would be unjust. So in this perspective, the individual has retained the capacity to have faith and the faith must originate from within him. This is contrasted with the paradigm of imputed righteousness ,which is outlined in the next two points.
  2. Classical Arminianism (and those traditions in the Wesleyan branch) holds that the individual's will is bound by sin to the point that the person cannot, under any circumstance, have saving faith in God. God quickens every single person to His word, and each individual has the power to reject this quickening and harden themselves or else receive Christ (called Prevenient Grace). In this perspective, the ability to overcome the fall and to have faith comes from God, but the faith comes from the individual (or at least the desire not to reject it, which seems functionally identical to me).
  3. Reformed Christianity (and to a large degree, Lutheranism) holds that the individual's will is bound by sin to the point that the person cannot, under any circumstance, have saving faith in God. Moreover, they see an inconsistency with Arminian theology in that if God quickens all people to the point that they can either receive or reject Christ without effects of the fall and original sin, then the reason why one believer chooses faith and another does not must be because of the individual himself. This means that there must be some "island of" righteousness within the individual that was unaffected by the fall (which they reject) or else God dispenses quickening grace inequitably (which they accept, but clarify that this inequitable nature is unfair but not unjust). Additionally, if faith is not a gift of God, it is considered a work and thus useless for salvation. The Pelagian Captivity of the Church is a long, but good read on the topic.
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